Courses & Requirements

Courses & Requirements



History is one of the most vital and comprehensive subjects in the Occidental College curriculum. Our department offers a broad diversity of courses and approaches covering every time period, and cultures from all over the globe. Students will become familiar with intellectual, social, political, comparative, and oral history, and may select from a wide spectrum of courses including such geographical areas as Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe, the United States, and such topical areas as Women's History, the History of Science and Medicine, revolution, and history in film. The faculty recognizes that students will develop their own perspectives on the material presented, and welcomes close interaction with motivated and involved majors. History is, after all, an exciting kind of detective work, finding and putting together the pieces of the puzzle to enhance our understanding of the past, but also of the present, and perhaps even the future. Some history majors go on to further studies in the field, but because of their wide exposure to various times and cultures, they are well prepared for almost any career. Besides providing a background for anyone interested in a truly liberal education, History helps prepare students for the fields of law, business, Foreign Service, librarianship, museum work, historic preservation, journalism, environmental studies, and teaching from primary and secondary through university levels.

Major Requirements

The History major consists of a minimum of forty units, or ten four-unit courses.


HIST 300History Colloquium


HIST 490Senior Seminar


Survey courses

Choose three courses from different geographic areas (Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East & Africa, and United States).

Survey courses (the 100 series and some of the 200 series) cover a broad chronological time frame.

Students with AP scores of 4 or 5 receive academic credit, but still need to take the requisite 10 courses for the History major. They may, however, be excused from one survey requirement, taking 2 rather than 3 area surveys, although we discourage this, believing as we do that our department courses are far more challenging and sophisticated than even the best high school AP class.

Additional Electives

Students must complete five additional electives. Three of the remaining five classes should be additional upper division courses (in the 300 and 400 series). At least one course must deal with the premodern period. Courses satisfying the premodern requirement are listed below:

HIST 101United States Culture and Society I


HIST 121Antiquity to 1700: Europe and the Middle East


HIST 141East Asian Survey Since 1600


HIST 150Colonial Latin America


HIST 223Rise of French Culture


HIST 242Imperial China


HIST 247Premodern Japan


HIST 355Indians of Mexico


*If premodern course is also being used to satisfy a historical survey requirement, you must take an additional elective.

Of the ten required courses, at least seven must be taken in the History department, and no more than three will be accepted from other departments or institutions (see discussion of acceptable courses from other departments below).


The department occasionally accepts for history credit courses from such other departments as American Studies, Art and Art History, Critical Theory and Social Justice, Diplomacy and World Affairs, English, Philosophy, and Politics. These decisions are made on an individual basis in discussion with the student's advisor and/or the department chair.

Courses that may be counted toward the major without petition are:

AMST 272Asian Immigrants in American Society


AMST 280The United States and East Asia


AMST 290Rethinking the the United States: American Studies Theory and Methodology


AMST 295Topics in American Studies


AMST 390Junior Seminar


ENGL 341Race, Law, and Literature


* No more than three courses from other departments or transfer courses from other institutions (including study abroad courses) will be counted towards the History major.


Students majoring in History satisfy the final component of Occidental's college-wide writing requirement by successfully completing HIST 300. Students must have a grade of B- or better on the 15-page paper in HIST 300. Students should familiarize themselves with the departmental requirement at the time of declaring the major. See the Writing Program and consult the department chair for additional information.


Students meet their comprehensive requirement by taking HIST 490 in the fall semester of their senior year and writing for that course a 25-page paper that involves research and analysis of primary and secondary sources. They are required to turn in a 5-page prospectus of their project and attend several meetings in the spring of their junior year to prepare for HIST 490. Papers may concentrate on a geographical area or take a topical approach, such as History of Science and Medicine; Women's History; or Revolutions.


Students with sufficiently high GPA (3.25) overall can write an honors thesis. Senior history majors pursuing honors will take the Senior Seminar in the fall and, if invited by the Senior Seminar instructors in consultation with thesis advisors, will extend their thesis work in the spring Honors Seminar. The honors thesis is a 40-page paper, which demonstrates excellence in historical research, writing, and analysis, written under the supervision of the Honors Seminar instructor, the thesis advisor, and a third faculty reader. Students planning to try for honors must make known their intentions in a written proposal early spring semester of their junior year. See the Honors Program for additional information.


Students are eligible for distinction if they receive an A or A- on their paper for HIST 490.


The R. Lee Culp Prize is awarded annually to a senior for the most outstanding senior thesis. 

The Edith Culp Prize is awarded annually for the best term paper or junior seminar paper. 

The Diana Culp Bork Prize is awarded annually for outstanding service to the department.

Minor Requirements

Five courses (20 units) in History from at least two geographic areas, including HIST 300.


History Courses